Simone Biles recorded yet another crushing victory at the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics trials on Sunday, sending a clear message to her rivals that Rio Games gold is her next target.
The three-time reigning world all-around champion, who has not lost a major competition since 2013, will lead a powerhouse U.S. squad into Rio that includes London Olympic gold medalists and Fierce Five team mates Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, 16-year-old Lauren Hernandez and Madison Kocian, the reigning world champion on uneven bars.
Already in the discussion as the greatest gymnast of all-time, Biles punched her ticket to Rio in what has become typically ruthless style outdistancing the rest of the elite 14 women field by a whopping 2.100 points.
With the formality of making the U.S. team out of the way Biles heads to Rio where she is expected to challenge for five gold medals.
“For the past three years it (Olympics) has been a dream and once it comes true, you don’t even believe it, it’s kind of like a fairytale,” said Biles, who was too young to compete in London. “It was very emotional.”
Competing on four different apparatus twice, Biles finished with a two-day total score of 123.250 while Hernandez was second on 121.150 and Raisman third 119.750.
MyKayla Skinner was fourth and Ragan Smith fifth but did not make the five member Rio squad, team selectors instead opted to go with struggling Douglas, the reigning Olympic all-around champion, who finished well back in seventh and uneven bar specialist Kocian, in eighth.
“All of us on the selection committee felt that this is the best combination,” said U.S. women’s national team program director Martha Karolyi. “Gabby has good international level and I know her personality and I’m going back to what she did in the past.”
Sitting seventh after Friday’s opening round, no one was under more pressure to deliver on Sunday than Douglas.
For the second straight competition she tumbled off the balance beam and lacked the iron confidence that has been her trademark.
The darling of the London Olympics, Douglas failed to recapture the old magic but Karolyi kept the faith believing the 20-year-old’s reputation as a clutch performer will shine through in Rio.
“I’m excited to talk to her (Karolyi) and pour my heart out,” said Douglas. “I just want to say, thank you for believing in me even though I didn’t do as well as I could have and there is so much more that I can do.
“Thank you for not giving up on me and I’m just going to really prove to her and everyone that I deserve to be on this team.”
Even though Biles’s margin of victory was decisive it was a far from polished effort from the 19-year-old mighty mite.
But in a sport that routinely sees champions determined by fractions of a point, Biles’s margin of victory on an off-night was even more impressive.
She began on the floor and fired up the capacity crowd with a saucy, high-flying routine that was worth the price of admission alone but not perfect stepping out of bounds on one of her tumbling runs.
There was also a rare fall on the beam but such is the degree of difficulty of her routines that it had little impact.
“We haven’t had time to think about it (Rio), we are just celebrating living in the moment,” said Biles. “Right now you just have to live through this, feel happy and proud before you start thinking about what happens next.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)